17 May 2010

Advocate this....

"She’s basically a short man with boobs. A lot of what I love about her is her butchness. I’m not saying I fell in love with her in a sexually neutral way. I love her sexuality—it’s a big part of what I love about her—but I feel like it was her. It wasn’t something in me that was waiting to come out. It was like, this person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by? Christine would probably kill me for saying this, but my daughter said one time that if you really had to break this down, [it looks like] she would be butch and I would be femme."

-Cynthia Nixon on her partner Christine, The Advocate, June 2010

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First up - I love Nixon for the way she rejects the idea that you have to be either gay or straight, one or the other, as if it’s all that black and white! Instead, Nixon offers us a tale that many before her have told. It may seem ridiculously obvious and simple to say that love has absolutely nothing to do with gender, but for someone like her who has a heterosexual past (married with 2 kids), she defends her current status in a same-sex relationship by aknowledging her belief that love is about being drawn to someone who is undeniable, whose force is so magnetic. Gender? Pfft, doesn't matter. (I know, still sounds a bit obvious…hold on).

It's absolutely true to say that gender’s only purpose is to build a wall, a boundary if you will, by which the majority of society determines who their life mate should be. Most of us stay within this boundary and simply reject the notion that Nixon believes - “If anybody, prior to my meeting and falling in love with Christine, had asked me about what I think about sexuality, I would have said I think we’re all bisexual. But I had that point of view without ever having felt attracted to a woman. I had never met a woman I was attracted to [before Christine].”

It is for this, her recognition of bisexuality as something more seemingly natural than most of us may think, that I admire Nixon’s effort in maintaining that she had no ’knock-you-down sense of shock’, no coming-out moment. Just a realization that she had fallen in love with an amazing soul....who happened to be a woman.

If only I wasn't so motivated to find the rain cloud in everything :)

My reason for eye-rolling begins here...

Calling one’s partner ‘a short man with boobs’ doesn't really feel like the best compliment one could pay, despite the fact that I'm certain she said this lovingly. According to Nixon, this butchiness is a lot of what she loves about Christine, who, the interviewer also points out, dresses in men’s clothing and would most certainly be at odds on a lunch date with Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha (lame joke).

FINE, so Christine isn't what our current culture would call 'traditionally feminine'...don't even get me started on that, entire other entry on it's own.

But here's the thing about masculinity...

We know it's considered of higher value than it's counterpart, femininity - our patriarchal culture confirms this, as does the fact that our language operates through creating hierarchical binaries (in normal words: opposites, whereby one half of the opposing concepts is given higher value). So, we know that in a hetero relationship, men come to benefit from the privileged meaning attached to the concept of masculinity because it's our patriarchal culture that creates these meanings in the first place. Still with me??? Refer to 'A Brief Introdution to Poststructuralism' and you'll be sorted ;)

So, by virtue of the fact that there are also two people in a same-sex relationship, one half will (theoretically) be held at a higher value simply because that‘s how our culture operates - things only have meaning when there‘s something opposing them. But because of the fact that we are trained to think heterosexuality is the norm, one partner in a same-sex relationship will (theoretically) be masculine and the other feminine and in so doing, we end up creating concepts like butch/femme whereby same sex relationships have the potential and ability to reflect (by appearance) some version of a heterosexual couple.

The obsession with ‘Who’s butch? Who’s femme?’ (in any same sex relationship - lesbian or gay) gets me in a bit of a twist. Why do we need to deem one half of a same sex couple more feminine or masculine than the other? As I‘ve just outlined through my use of language and meaning systems (whaaaat?...seriously, Poststructuralism is the coolest stuff if you can get in to it!), the answer is actually pretty simple. Because that’s how deeply embedded ‘heterosexuality as the norm’ lies....within our social processes, institutions, and systems of meaning. In short, our entire society and culture.

This deeply ingrained norm is what could make Nixon's relationship (and others like her and Christine's), easier for some people in our culture to accept - by appearance, they are essentially some version, some degree, of a heterosexual couple. But it's also a piss-off because it's only furthering the point that we look at lesbian and gay couples and try and pick out the butch, the femme. And that's not right. Now I'm not saying the butch/femme dichotomy is only destructive or limiting (as I know these concepts can have varied and positive meanings in LGBT communities), but I simply wanted to point out how our language, our male-defined meanings and institutions, processes and cultures, can create concepts that only help to further the assumption and belief that heterosexuality is the norm. Woman and Man...end of.

Girl, Deconstructed


  1. Insightful Nik, it's true that even when people are talking freely about their relationship, the socio-cultural structure is built around every word they say.


  2. Very insightful indeed. I enjoy the fact that poststructuralism can be discussed within this context and other day to day structures. I continually struggle with poststructuralism, but your discussion here breaks it down beautifully.

    Also, it is unbelievable how entrenched our culture is with, one, hierarchical binaries and, two, with patriarchal values. Can any values, opinions, views, etc., in our culture ever exist without them? I would like to think so, but I'm not sure how accepted these views would be.